The Truth About Auditioning in L.A. According to a Working Actor

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Photo Source: Hanna Barczyk

What acting advice would I give my younger self? Learn to enjoy kale—and by kale, I mean auditioning.

Both auditioning and kale are often viewed by new connoisseurs with distrust, annoyance, fear, and a lack of understanding. But if you learn to season kale right, it can be as delicious as cake. (OK, fine, that’s never going to happen, but at least it won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth!) The same can be said of auditioning. Look, no one actually likes auditioning, but it’s a necessary aspect of your career as an actor. Think of it this way: You’re not going to get the role of your dreams that you happen to be perfect for without auditioning for it. That’s when you need to plug your nose and eat the kale.

Here’s something to keep in mind when you’re faced with the kale: Earlier in my career, I had a breakthrough when I realized that acting and auditioning were two completely separate skill sets and that they needed to be treated as such. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was very fortunate to have a manager and was able to start auditioning immediately. With a degree in theater and several plays under my belt, I thought I was more than prepared to audition for television roles, but what I got was a huge reality smack in the face.

READ: The 6 Key Skills Needed to Master the Reaction Audition

Auditioning in L.A. is like jumping onto a speeding train and then having to jump off again while somehow staying on your feet the entire time. I can’t even tell you how many times I wouldn’t “nail” my audition and then complain that it was because I didn’t have enough time to prepare. What I didn’t realize then was that it’s very typical to receive notice at around 6 p.m. for a 10 a.m. audition. And—news flash!—casting directors don’t care if you just got the sides, or that you only had 30 minutes to prepare, or that you worked your “survival job” the night before—or that you’re fighting a cold, fighting with your significant other, or fighting traffic. They have over 5,000 submissions for a single part, which means they can be as nitpicky as they want. In fact, they have to be. Your job as the actor is to be as specific with your character choices and as fast as possible in the room, then move on.

So here’s my advice: Take as many cold-reading classes on-camera as you can. They don’t teach you how to act, but they do teach you how to make strong choices and take notes on the fly. They also let you see what you look like on camera so you can see firsthand what works and what doesn’t work. Think of auditioning as a muscle; the more you use it, the stronger you get. The stronger you get, the more normal it becomes, and then you become a more powerful actor.

Oh, and something that’s good for real muscles? Kale.

Known for her work on Starz’s “Spartacus” and the CW’s “Arrow,” Katrina Law now stars opposite Bill Paxton on “Training Day” on CBS.

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